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In Blam! the player would control hundreds of soldiers - called Spartans - in an epic battle between humans and aliens on huge landscapes. Its big feature was the ability to zoom in from high to individual units. The team loved the close-up view and by 1998 Blam! had moved to a third-person perspective. Meanwhile, progress on Oni was good and subsequently attracted the interest of Take 2 who, in 1999, had bought just under 20% of the shares in the company. On release Oni was generally pretty well received.
More importantly, though, Blam! became Halo, and the game, still on the Mac platform, was shown at E3 in 1999 using a third-person perspective. The huge landscapes, vehicles and cutting-edge textures were impressive, but the project wasn't considered the showstopper it would later become. Bungie went back to the drawing board and, from there, back to their roots: they made it into a first-person shooter.
Above: Halo 2. FPS doesn't get much better than this
The shift to FPS recalled Bungie's previous titles, but also solved a pretty sizeable problem for the team. The outdoor environments handled the third-person view pretty well, but indoors they struggled with the camera. In a first-person perspective, problems with glitches and clipping were suddenly eliminated, freeing the team up. Then it all changed. Microsoft, canvassing for developers ready to commit to their brand new Xbox console and impressed by what they'd seen of Halo, moved in on Bungie, snapping them up in a deal worth $30million. Almost immediately, the team moved en masse from Chicago to Redmond to be closer to the Xbox development team, and were given 14 months to finish Halo in time for the launch of the Xbox.
With a short dev time left the network play was jettisoned so Bungie could focus on the single-player game. And what they focused on most was nailing the controls. Using a targeting system that paused for a split second over the target, it was the first console FPS that could truly compete with the mouse and keyboard combo championed by PC gamers. The game also used the hard drive to load images onto, which meant loading times were, for the first time on a disc-based console, kept to an absolute minimum.
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